White House says Tillerson to remain as secretary of state

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President Donald Trump brushed aside reports Thursday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's exit is imminent.

While acknowledging leaking the plan to journalist might be designed as an overt "signal to [Tillerson] that it is time to go", the Times reports that the "shake-up of the national security team", apparently being orchestrated by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, "would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward".

"Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department and the entire cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of President Trump's administration".

Perhaps more damaging for his internal prospects, though, was a report in October that Tillerson had called Trump a "moron" at one point in the summer - a report Tillerson has conspicuously never denied.

Asked whether he wanted Tillerson to remain in his job, Trump sidestepped the question, telling reporters at the White House: "He's here". But he now appears poised to lose an argument: over Tillerson's objections, the president is poised to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump is considering a plan to oust Tillerson, whose relationship has been strained by the top US diplomat's softer line on North Korea and other differences, senior administration officials said.

Tillerson's aloof management style and cost-saving plan to restructure the State Department, including slashing around 2,000 positions, has not helped his popularity.

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Mr Tillerson's departure would end a troubled tenure for the former Exxon Mobile chief executive, who has found himself increasingly at odds with Mr Trump over policy challenges such as North Korea and under fire for his planned cuts at the State Department.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says there are "no personnel announcements at this time". Axios's Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan reported last month that Pompeo's stock was rising in the White House and that he was a leading contender to replace Tillerson.

A source familiar with Tillerson's thinking said the secretary of state's original plan when he took the job was to leave in February.

Friction between the president and the nation's top diplomat has grown increasingly public through the year.

No matter how long Tillerson is allowed to stay on, his stature and ability to speak on Trump's behalf has been impaired, it is widely agreed. Trump also once tweeted that Tillerson was "wasting his time" on diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

Tillerson successfully convinced Mr. Trump to keep the U.S.in the Iran nuclear deal.

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